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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-98-012
Details
Synopsis: ON 1/12/97, ABOUT 11:52 A.M. PACIFIC STANDARD TIME, THE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD (UP) UNIT FREIGHT TRAIN 6205 WEST DERAILED 68 CARS ON THE UP LOS ANGELES SUBDIVISION, MILEPOST (MP) 238.7, NEAR KELSO, CALIFORNIA. THE TRAIN CONSISTED OF 3 LOCOMOTIVE UNITS & 75 LOADED COVERED HOPPER CARS. WHILE DESCENDING CIMA HILL, THE ENGINEER INADVERTENTLY ACTIVATED THE MULTIPLE-UNIT (MU) ENGINE SHUTDOWN SWITCH, WHICH SHUT DOWN ALL THE LOCOMOTIVE UNIT DIESEL ENGINES & ELIMINATED THE TRAIN'S DYNAMIC BRAKING CAPABILITY. THE TRAIN RAPIDLY ACCELERATED BEYOND THE 20-MPH AUTHORIZED SPEED LIMIT DESPITE THE ENGINEER'S EFFORTS TO INCREASE THE TRAIN'S AIR BRAKING, WHICH THE ENGINEER PLACE IN EMERGENCY 1 MINUTE & 2 SECONDS AFTER DYNAMIC BRAKING LOSS. THE TRAIN'S CONSIST WEIGHT WAS LISTED AT AN AVERAGE OF 13 TONS PER CAR LESS THAN THE TRAIN ACTUALLY WEIGHED. THE TRAIN EVENTUALLY REACHED A SPEED OF 72 MPH & DERAILED 68 OF ITS 75 CARS WHILE EXITING A SIDING NEAR KELSO, CLAIFORNIA. NO FATALITIES, INJURIES FIRES, OR HAZARDOUS MATERIALS RELEASES RESULTED FROM THE ACCIDENT. THE TOTAL DAMAGE COST WAS $4,376,400.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD: REEXAMINE YOUR MAXIMUM AUTHORIZED TRAIN SPEEDS FOR SAFE OPERATION OF TRAINS OF ALL WEIGHTS TO ESTABLISH NEW SPEED-BASED MARGINS OF SAFETY THAT CAN EASILY USED BY TRAINCREWS.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Kelso, CA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: LAX97FR004
Accident Reports: Derailment of Union Pacific Railroad Unit Freight Train 6205 West
Report #: RAR-98-01
Accident Date: 1/12/1997
Issue Date: 2/25/1998
Date Closed: 4/5/1999
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: Union Pacific (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: Union Pacific
Date: 4/5/1999
Response: THE SAFETY BOARD NOTES THAT THE REQUESTED REEXAMINATION HAS TAKEN PLACE AND THAT THE UP HAS REDUCED THE MAXIMUM AUTHORIZED SPEED TO INCREASE THE MARGIN OF SAFETY. THE BOARD HAS CLASSIFIED R-98-12 "CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION."

From: Union Pacific
To: NTSB
Date: 4/15/1998
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 4/20/98 4:17:54 PM MC# 980493 TESTS WITH A SIMILAR TRAIN ON CIMA HILL EARLY MARCH 1997 INDICATE THAT, IN THIS CASE, THE MARGINS OF SAFETY WERE MORE THAN ADEQUATE FOR OPERATION ON THE HILL. THE SPEED LIMIT WAS 20 MPH, AND THE REENACTMENT TRAIN HAD SUFFICIENT BRAKING POWER TO STOP AT SPEEDS OF 25 MPH. IT DID NOT STOP FROM 30 MPH; HOWEVER, THE ACCIDENT TAPES AND THE REENACTMENT INDICATE MOMENTARY CONTROL OF THE SPEED, WHICH PUTS THE CRITICAL SPEED BETWEEN 25 AND 30 MPH. THIS TRAIN HAD A MARGIN OF SAFETY GREATER THAN 25%, WHICH IS SIGNIFICANT. IN FACT, WITH RESPECT TO THE OPERATING RULES IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT, THIS TRAIN SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN HANDLED ANY DIFFERENTLY THAN A TRAIN LOADED TO AN AVERAGE WEIGHT OF 263,000 LBS. PER CAR. SINCE THE ACCIDENT AT HAYDEN, WE'VE REDUCED THE MAXIMUM AUTHORIZED SPEED FROM 20 MPH TO 15 MPH FOR TRAINS IN THIS WEIGHT CATEGORY. THIS INCREASES THE MARGIN OF SAFETY TO AN EXCESSIVE 66%! WE HAVE OPERATED FOR YEARS ON CIMA HILL WITH SPEED SAFETY MARGINS IN THE 25% RANGE, AND IT IS UNREASONABLE TO STATE THAT IT HAS ERODED SIGNIFICANTLY. IN FACT, WE HAVE NEW 315,000 DESIGN GRL COAL CARS TESTED AND OPERATING ON THE HILL AT 286,000 THAT HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER BRAKING PERFORMANCE AND DIRECTLY REFUTE THE STATEMENT THAT WITH INCREASED SIZE AND WEIGHT WE HAVE ERODED THE EFFICIENCY OF BRAKING SAFETY MARGINS.